Taxis are as synonymous with city life as newspapers or street food sellers. No matter where you come from, your local taxi is just part of the scenery. But the idea of what constitutes a normal taxi for those who live in other corners of the world can sometimes seem as bizarre to our eyes as it is ordinary to theirs. Still, that’s no reason not to revel in their weirdness – so, following on from last week's rundown of the planet's most iconic cabs, here are our top five most unusual taxis from around the world.
It might have a face only its mother could love, but if you’re a VIP in Moscow, this is the only taxi worth thinking about catching. It’s a TechArt Magnum, and it’s based on a Porsche Cayenne– only the Magnum features a power boost to somewhere in the region of 600bhp, and an absolutely barmy bodykit to match. Taste might be pretty far out of the window here, but if you want to be seen to be a somebody, this is the way to arrive.
Almost as ubiquitous on the streets of Bangkok as people, the Tuk Tuk is renowned worldwide as one of the most basic – and dangerous – forms of taxi around. Rear-facing passenger seats give occupants an unparalleled view of the car that’s about to smash into them, while the Tuk’s inherent instability adds a frisson of excitement to any cornering manoeuvre.
Based originally around the Jeeps that were left in the Philippines by the Americans after the Second World War, the Jeepney features a Jeep-like nose with an extended wheelbase and a passenger-carrying rear end. They operate in a no-mans-land part-way between bus and taxi, driving along fixed routes but stopping to load and unload whenever they’re flagged down. And thanks to the close proximity of passengers, there’s a strict etiquette to Jeepney travel – breach it at your peril!
In Cuba, new cars are scarce – so they generally have to make do with what they’ve got, and that means fixing up and modifying the few cars that made it into the country under communist rule. So what do you do when your Lada taxi needs more space? Simple – chop it in half, and add the mid-section of another Lada. While hardly the safest things in the world, these bonkers creations can’t be faulted for their ingenuity.
Of course, if you don’t fancy your chances in a stretched Lada, you can always try one of Cuba’s new breed of quirky ‘Coco Taxis’. These auto rickshaws seat passengers on plastic moulded seats and enclose them in an egg-shaped fibreglass cocoon. Their mechanical simplicity and cheapness are making them enormously popular with owner-operators in Havana. Thanks to a complete lack of windows or windscreen, though, they’re hardly the best place to be in a freak shower.